Fertility Treatment Not Found to Adversely Affect Cardiovascular Health of Offspring

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Study shows no robust differences in blood pressure, heart rate, lipids, and glucose measurements in children conceived using assisted reproductive technologies.

A large study examining the effects of fertility treatment has found no robust difference in blood pressure, heart rate, lipids, and glucose measurements between children conceived naturally and those conceived with assisted reproductive technologies (ART).

“Each year around 60,000 patients use fertility services in the UK in the hope of one day having a family of their own,” said Peter Thompson, chief executive of the Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority, in a press release. “Those patients should be reassured by this study which shows that the heart health of children born from assisted reproduction technologies, like IVF, are no different from children conceived naturally.”

The study, published in European Heart Journal, aimed to address concerns around whether fertility treatment leads to adverse cardiometabolic health in offspring. The data sample included 8600 children from Bristol’s Children of the 90s study, which has followed pregnant women and their offspring since 1991.

The Children of the 90s study, also known as the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children, is a long-term health research project that enrolled more than 14,000 pregnant women in 1991 and 1992. It has been following the health and development of the parents, their children, and now their grandchildren in detail over the past 30 years.

Since the first birth of a child using in vitro fertilization (IVF), some clinicians have raised questions about the health risks for children conceived this way. However, previous studies are limited by small sample size, short follow-up, and unsatisfactory comparison groups. The new study examined data from 35,000 Europeans, Singaporean, and Australian offspring. This sample was large enough to study whether conception by ART affected blood pressure, pulse rate, lipids, or glucose from childhood through the early 20s.

According to the findings, blood pressure, heart rate, and glucose levels were similar in children conceived using ART and their naturally conceived peers. The team also found that those who were conceived by ART had slightly higher cholesterol levels in childhood, which did not persist into adulthood, and some indication of slightly higher blood pressure in adulthood.

“This is the largest study of its kind and could not be conducted without data from studies such as Children of the 90s,” said lead study author Ahmed Elhakeem, BMedSci, MPH, PhD, in the press release. “Parents conceiving or hoping to conceive through assisted reproductive technology and their offspring should be reassured that cardiometabolic health appears to be comparable in ART-conceived and naturally conceived children. Studies with longer follow-up would now be beneficial to examine how results might change across adulthood.”

REFERENCE

Fertility treatment does not adversely affect cardiovascular health of offspring, international study suggests. News release. EurekAlert; February 5, 2023. Accessed February 10, 2023. https://www.eurekalert.org/news-releases/978696

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